First up is something white. Of the blinding kind.

Some of you are most likely thinking that white is not really a color and all of that tired sort of nonsense. Well, I’m here to tell you that it is. White is without question a color, and personally, I don’t think you want to argue with me.

Please, be calm, despite that previous threat.
I am all bluster–
I am not violent.
I am not malicious.
I am a result.

Yes, it was white.

It felt as though the whole globe was dressed in snow. Like it had pulled it on, the way you pull on a sweater.

Next to the train line, footprints were sunken to their shins. Trees wore blankets of ice.

As you might expect, someone had died.

They couldn’t just leave him on the ground. For now, it wasn’t such a problem, but very soon, the track ahead would be cleared and the train would need to move on.

There were two guards.
There was one mother and her daughter.
One corpse.

The mother, the girl, and the corpse remained stubborn and silent.

“Well, what else do you want me to do?”

The guards were tall and short. The tall one always spoke first, though he was not in charge. He looked at the smaller, rounder one. The one with the juicy red face.

“Well,” was the response, “we can’t just leave them like this, can we?”

The tall one was losing patience. “Why not?”

And the smaller one damn near exploded. He looked up at the tall one’s chin and cried, “Spinnst du! Are you stupid?!” The abhorrence on his cheeks was growing thicker by the moment. His skin widened. “Come on,” he said, traipsing over the snow. “We’ll carry all three of them back on if we have to. We’ll notify the next stop.”

As for me, I had already made the most elementary of mistakes. I can’t explain to you the severity of my self-disappointment. Originally, I’d done everything right:

I studied the blinding, white-snow sky who stood at the window of the moving train. I practically inhaled it, but still, I wavered. I buckled–I became interested. In the girl. Curiosity got the better of me, and I resigned myself to stay as long as my schedule allowed, and I watched.

Twenty-three minutes later, when the train was stopped, I climbed out with them.

A small soul was in my arms.

I stood a little to the right.

The dynamic train guard duo made their way back to the mother, the girl, and the small male corpse. I clearly remember that my breath was loud that day. I’m surprised the guards didn’t notice me as they walked by. The world was sagging now, under the weight of all that snow.

Perhaps ten meters to my left, the pale, empty-stomached girl was standing, frost-stricken.

Her mouth jittered.

Her cold arms were folded.

Tears were frozen to the book thief’s face.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Copyright © 2006 by Markus Zusak. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.